Dodgers Celebrate Improbably Title

With a playoff spot guaranteed and after the first meaningless game of the regular season, the Dodgers celebrated with their fans on the field before continuing it in the clubhouse. Boxes of sunflower seeds and bubble gum were strewn into the fans behind the dugout and bottles of champagne were sprayed on the delirious fans.

As a matter of record, San Diego jumped ahead early in the game and held off a variety of Dodgers rallies to win the final game of the season between the two clubs by a 7-5 margin.

The Dodgers fell to 83-76 with three games in San Francisco left on the regular season.

The Dodgers clinched the title while they were driving to Dodger Stadium for the game when St. Louis beat Arizona but they postponed the celebration until after the game.

Later manager Joe Torre made the rounds behind the Dodger dugout, clapping hands with the many fans who waited for just such an occurrence.

A number of players sprayed many the same fans with champagne while Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was in the middle of things in the clubhouse, being drenched by several players.

"I'm happy because of all we went through this season," McCourt said. "It was a battle, with all the injuries. At the end of the day, this is all about the fans. They stuck with us through the entire year, and we were scuffling for a while. It was a fantastic finish."

Torre said he received a text message of congratulations from Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin. "He's a class act," Torre said. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman called as well to offer his best wishes.

As you would expect, Torre gave credit to his players for winning the division.

"Anytime a manager thinks that he's responsible for something that players do, he's a little deluded," the 68-year-old skipper said. "I just try to get everybody thinking and going in the same direction and being on the same page. That's my job, trying to put out fires here and there. My job is to keep people focused.

"I never envisioned myself at 68 years old going somewhere new to start over—and I'm glad I did it."

Torre and his wife watched the final inning of the Diamondbacks' loss in his office with general manager Ned Colletti along with McCourt and his wife, Jamie.

"I'm relieved and ecstatic at the same time," Colletti said. "I'm proud of the team, proud of what they've gone through this year and how they came together the last four or five weeks. They fought through a lot of adversity."

McCourt and Dodgers executive Tom Lasorda walked through the left field pavilion during the game, shaking hands with the fans as they went.

The pre-arranged annual rookie dress-up travel day saw the 11 rookies decked out in wild outfits to wear on the bus and plane en route to the final series of the regular season in San Francisco.

A costume store in the Los Angeles area was going out of business and the veterans stocked up on the wackiest outfits they could find for the rookie to wear.

"You guys will fit right in in San Francisco," one of the staff commented with a laugh.

Ramirez found out the Dodgers qualified for the playoffs from a reporter about an hour after Arizona lost.

"It's good, but it's just the first step," said Ramirez, who has performed so well that he's been mentioned as the N.L. Most Valuable Player.

"We're happy, but we're not going to go crazy about it. The goal is to go to the big dance, the World Series.

"Not a lot of players get a chance to go to the playoffs in their career. I've been blessed. You want to win it all. That's when you get that feeling you can't describe, like we had in Boston.

"The sky's the limit. You never know," he said of the Dodgers' chances. "We're a pretty good team. Anything can happen."

The Dodgers have won just one postseason game since winning the World Series 20 years ago, going 1-12 in four playoff appearances.

Opening-day starters Kent and shortstop Rafael Furcal were in the starting lineup, but played only three innings each before coming out.

Greg Maddux, the scheduled starter was replaced by Eric Stults in a starting lineup that didn't include Nomar Garciaparra or Russell Martin. The other starters played a few innings and gave way awaiting the celebration.

Jake Peavey earned the win for the Padres but was out of the game after a 53-minute fifth inning that cut the San Diego margin to 4-3.

Rafael Furcal started for the first time since May, playing the first three innings at shortstop and going hitless in two at-bats. Furcal missed 125 games with back problems before appearing as a pinch hitter the night before.

After running to his position at the start of the fourth inning, Furcal was immediately replaced by Chin-lung Hu, allowing Furcal to run off the field to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd.

Jeff Kent started for the first time in almost a month, played three innings and went 1-for-2, and he is now 2-for-3 since coming off the disabled list.

Casey Blake smacked his 36th double in the thee-run fifth inning, tying his career high.

Andre Ethier was 1-for-2 with a walk and now has hit safely in 13 of his past 14 games, batting .400 during that stretch. He has reached base in a career-high 20 consecutive games and is batting .458 in September.

Stults (2-3) allowed three runs before leaving in the fifth. Scott Elbert was tagged for another run before he could end the inning.

Ramon Troncoso gave up a home run and struck out for in two innings before Takashi Saito and Jonathan Broxton each surrendered a run in the eighth and ninth.

The Dodgers plan to rest their starters, tune up their pitching staff and test the readiness of Furcal and Jeff Kent for postseason play.

Torre said Derek Lowe, who his 6-1, 1.33 over his past nine starts, will pitch tonight to begin a three-game series in San Francisco, with Maddux going Saturday and Hiroki Kuroda working Sunday.

 Score by innings
San Diego	200 021 011-7
Los Angeles	000 031 010-5

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	2  0  0  0  .358
 Hu ss	        3  1  2  1  .181
Kent 2b	        2  0  1  0  .278
 Ozuna 2b	2  0  0  0  .222
Ramirez lf	2  0  0  0  .393
 Repko lf-rf	1  0  1  0  .214
Ethier rf	2  0  1  1  .303
 Troncoso p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Sweeney ph	1  0  0  0  .132
 Saito p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Young ph	1  0  0  0  .246
Loney 1b	5  0  1  0  .292
Blake 3b	2  0  1  0  .252
 DeWitt 3b	1  2  0  0  .262
Kemp cf	        3  2  1  1  .293
Ardoin c	4  0  0  0  .208
Stults p	1  0  0  0  .143
 Elbert p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Pierre ph-lf	3  0  2  1  .279
  Totals	35 5 10 4
  San Diego	36 7 10 7

 Two-base hits- Blake (12). HR- Kemp (18). 
RBI- Hu (9) Ethier (76), Pierre (28), Kemp 
(76). SB- Pierre (39), Hu (2). CS- Pierre 
(11). LOB- Los Angeles 9, San Diego 5.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Stults (2-3)	4.2  4  3-3  0  5  3.49
Elbert	        0.1  2  1-1  0  0 12.00
Troncoso	2.0  1  1-1  0  4  4.34
Saito	        1.0  1  1-1  1  2  2.54
Broxton 	1.0  2  1-1  0  0  3.18
 T- 3:09. Att- 52,569.
Playoff Starters
Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley will be the starters for playoff games Games 1 and 2, and Hiroki Kuroda will probably pitch Game 3. Torre said would possibly go with three starters because there is a second off-day on Oct. 6, which is between Games 3 and 4.

That might mean that Greg Maddux or Clayton Kershaw would draw the start in Game 4. Manny's Influence
If you have a doubt about the fact that Manny Ramirez was the driving force in the spectacular September surge, Michael Schwartz of had a couple graphics for you to examine.

 Dodgers offense before and after Manny:

                         ave  r/g   hr/g  slug
Before (July 31)	.255  4.16  0.68  .375
After (August 1)	.282  4.74  1.16  .444	

 Andre Ethier before and after Manny:

                         ave  r/g  hr/g  slug
Before (94 gms)	        .274  11    46   .442
After (41 gms)		.361   9    26   .645

(r/g = runs per game; hr/g = home runs per game.)
Dodger Blue Notes-- James Loney was presented with the third annual Campanella Award before the game. The award is given to the Dodger who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella. ...The Dodgers and Angels are tied for the best home record in the Majors since the All-Star break (23-9, .719). ...After their fourth sellout of the homestand last night, the Dodgers finished the season with an attendance of 3,730,750, the third highest in their history behind 2006 and 2007. ...Former big league pitcher Jim Abbott threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the game while at Dodger Stadium to support the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy campaign entitled P.I.T.C.H. (Proving Individuals with Talent Can Help).

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